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Dear Kangana, why fly Tejas when you can destroy the enemy with social media posts – Beyond Bollywood

Once the ‘Queen’ of Bollywood, Kangana Ranaut delivers her most disappointing film. Yes, certain belts will cheer the outlandish cross-border daredevilry, ultra-nationalism, but poor Tejas also has to bear the load of a certain agenda.

Rating: ⭐️ (1 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

The opening scene! Two daredevil IAF [Indian Air Force] officers are flying over unfriendly waters. They spot a fellow captain falling into the beach. He lays unconscious.  Only Wing Commander Tejas Gill’s [Kangana Ranaut] hawk eyes can spot it from miles up in the air. Afia [Anshul Chauhan], her first-officer, plus the Air Marshall at the desk, warn Gill to follow orders and retreat. 

To hell with orders. There’s no stopping this flying tigress. In a moment, she drops to the shore, carries the injured male captain on her shoulders. There is trouble brewing in the distance as blood thirsty Senegalese (or Somali) tribe is storming with their spears. For all their speed, these poor Africans couldn’t catch up with the female IAF officer, who is carrying a fellow officer on her shoulder, walking through the water and in no time, is airlifted. Phew, this tribe hasn’t earned its stripes. If not the last laugh, the Africans do fire the last shots. Three spears stick like glue on Tejas’s back. Few seconds later, she loses consciousness, but not her grip.

Welcome to the action-thrilling world of Tejas [2023]. It sets the stage for more such bizarre dare-daredevilry, and cringe dialogues. Producer Ronnie Screwvala gave the surprise blockbuster in Uri: The Surgical Strike [2019]. He doesn’t have Aditya Dhar this time. In stead, he lets little known writer-filmmaker Sarvesh Mewara command the journey of Tejas. Named after India’s second home-grown LCA [Low Combat Aircraft], Tejas, the film was perhaps billed as a desi Top Gun (Hollywood franchise). What we get though is Flop Gun. No, there’s nothing wrong with the LCA, but it’s the low-on-creativity drama that crashes our hopes. Your reviewer felt slightly optimistic after watching the trailer. We liked the cover, but the chapters in this book are anything but cinematic.

After regaining consciousness in the hospital, our tigress is quickly back on her feet. The male captain wants to thank her for saving his life. He then turns around and asks the lady for lunch. Before she can reply, we’re taken back to 2007 at a concert in Mumbai where a pretty singer tells on the mic that his future girl friend is in the crowd. Soon they meet, fall in love. Forward to some present-day action and it’s back to the past where we see Gill in her infant years at IAF. Technology helps to make Kangana look 6=7 years younger. However, her (Gill) attitude then and now remains constant. Is it unprofessional? That is for for the IAF to comment, but we weren’t convinced by this fictional representation of a female IAF officer. Present, past, patriotism, comedy, it all gets too much for us. Come to the point! What’s your prime story here?

That only comes close to the interval mark where Tejas Gill vows to rescue a fellow officer from the clutches of terror in Waziristan, Pakistan. (Prashant is perhaps a mix of Kulbhusban Jadhav and Wing Commander Abhinandan). Why all that drama before? But this mission is also personal for Tejas.

Though there is no Aditya Dhar here, we sensed a Uri hangover in Tejas. Uri: The Surgical Strike uplifted Vicky Kaushal’s career then. Kangana Ranaut desperately needs a hit. The last one came way back in 2015 – Tanu Weds Manu Returns.  She must have pinned great hopes on a Tejas doing an URI. We’re not too optimistic of Tejas flying high.

Unlike a Uri: The Surgical Strike [2019], which was based on a true story, Tejas is a manufactured tale of jingoism. It takes a strong stance against terror, including a Kamikaze climax, but the RSVP film is also guilty of pandering to an agenda. This is new India, yeh ghar mein ghus ke marega (India isn’t afraid to strike in the enemy territory). Add a dose of faith, and you know where Tejas is coming from.

Kangana Ranaut, Anshul Chauhan in Tejas (2023)

Terror has to be called out, but never at the cost of polarization. One is stunned to hear Afia cry and confess to two-timing.  Here’s a girl from the minority community in IAF, but she is fearful, unfaithful, and basically a comic. What is Mewara trying to prove? Thankfully, come the crisis hour, Afia proves her competence and loyalty to the nation. She was perhaps needed to pacify any anti-minority sentiment. To be fair to Mewara, producer Screwvala, their film doesn’t attribute any faith to terror. How will IAF take to Afia’s goofiness though?

An under confident Afia and an over-confident, emotionally charged Tejas are picked to carry out the rescue mission inside Pakistan. How will they get Indian LCA to Pakistan?  Tejas confidently states that we will fly out from Pakistan. Phew, isn’t that wishful thinking? Not in the world of Sarvesh Mewara, where the Indian think tank rides on a Norwegian Globetrotter to land two Tejas aircrafts. If this was bizarre, wait till you see how Tejas and Afia plant a cloak-like sheet on a Pakistani runway to shield the two parked LCAs. Cool, innovative, just like Uri’s robotic eagle. Hey, but how did the two Tejas’s get out of the Globetrotter? We never get to see that. Hey, why show the enemy our tricks?

Such daredevilry is unfathomable in the real world. Come on, this is just a film though. Besides, the Norwegian collaboration perhaps helps to pacify the aggrieved Nordmenn who weren’t amused by Mrs. Chatterjee v/s Norway [2023].  The Royal Norwegian Air Force though won’t be proud of their representation in Tejas.

Insipid is an apt word to describe the Tejas story and screenplay. Then there’s the ham fest by its two leads that reduces Tejas to a joke.  Sarvesh Mewara fails as a storyteller and director. But isn’t it tough to direct Ranaut, who over the years has been accused of high-handedness.

Make no mistake, Kangana Ranaut is seriously talented. But the actor Ranaut was only last seen in Panga [2020]. Her subsequent films have all been disasters. What’s worrying for Kangana fans, that includes this reviewer, is that the actor in Ranaut has gone totally missing. More than the screen, she’s made noise on social media with her social, political comments. Unfortunately, that ego, ultra-nationalism has now seeped into her acting too.  She has mocked fellow actors, and gone overboard in self-praise.  That swag is fine if you’re going great guns in your career, but with every film, Ranaut has declined as an actor. What will it take to get the Kangana, the fine actor to return? Just like the struggling Akshay Kumar, Ranaut, too, needs to do some soul searching.  There is little hope though from her upcoming films.

Poor screenplay, below par performance, Tejas [2023] is further jolted by poor action, VFX. The Tejas (aircraft) story needed to be told, but not through Sarvesh Mewara’s vision.

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